HAART is the acronym for Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy — aggressive treatment used to suppress HIV viral replication and the progression of HIV disease.

Researchers from the Hospital San Pedro, in Spain surveyed the use of medicinal plants in HIV patients receiving HAART.

First, the details.

  • 193 patients with HIV and receiving HAART took part in the survey.

And, the results.

  • 17% confirmed they used alternative medicinal therapies.
  • In 46% of these cases there was a potential interaction with the effectiveness of HAART.
  • Here’s the breakdown
    • 46% Grapefruit
    • 21% Thistle
    • 21% Echinacea
    • 4% Omega-3
    • 4% Chinese herbs
    • 4% Ginseng

The bottom line?
Yes, these are potential interactions. But are they dangerous?

Here’s what we know about their potential for a significant adverse effect on HIV/AIDS treatment.

  • Grapefruit
    • 1,200 mg amprenavir (Agenerase, a protease inhibitor) taken with grapefruit juice had no significant effect on amprenavir.
  • Echinacea
    • There’s potential, but no studies were found in a PubMed search.
  • Omega-3
    • In HIV patients, omega-3 therapy lowered triglyceride blood levels.
    • “Omega-3 fatty acids may contribute to reduce cardiovascular risk in HIV positive patients.”
  • Chinese herbs and ginseng
    • Here are the herbals that have a role traditional Chinese medicine and are of interest in patients with HIV.

Another useful review of CAM interactions with HAART is here.

4/30/09 21:06 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.